Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion

INTRODUCING FR. FREDDIE'S GOSPEL REFLECTIONS

for Multi-purpose

1. These reflections are not written like an essay, but in six precise steps. Choose what you like.

2. They are not meant only for preaching homilies, but for a multi-purpose: for teaching, prayer (either personal or common), reflections and socio-pastoral guidance.

3. They can be used outside the liturgical celebrations also on any other occasions for preaching (by using the same text), private and common prayers, Bible Vigil, Adoration, Prayer Service, Gospel Sharing, conferences, talks, etc.

4. Only the Gospel text prescribed for the Sunday Liturgy in the Catholic Church is used for these reflections, and not the First and Second Readings. The latter are quoted only for reference. Those who want to include them, have to find their own applications.

5. These reflections are written from a pastoral and spiritual perspective, and not from academic or exegetical.

6. The preachers have an option to develop only the focus-statements given in Step 2 on their own into a full-fledged homily. If they want to make their homily shorter, they need not include all the points/thoughts written by the author; instead can select what they like, and (if they want) add their own stories/ anecdotes/ examples.

7. The title, “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion” indicates the author’s intention to highlight the life-sustaining or life-saving issues in our world and society in the midst of anti-life forces.

8. Though much of the material presented in these reflections is author's, no claim is made for the originality of all the thoughts and ideas. They are adopted from various authors.

9. Reproduction of these reflections in any form needs prior permission.

Friday, 16 August 2019

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)


Twentieth Ordinary Sunday (C) [Lk 12:49-53]
18 August 2019
Jesus’ Message Brings Fire and Causes Division
Readings: (1) Jer 38:4-6.8-10 (2) Heb 12:1-4
1.  Theme in brief
     To be fired with zeal for God’s Kingdom and its consequences
2.  Focus Statement
Like Jesus, we are called to burn with ardent desire for God’s Kingdom in our hearts, and be willing to make any sacrifices including facing division within our own families for its sake.  
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel Jesus speaks about three aspects of his mission: (1) The purpose of his coming into the world (his mission) was to bring fire to the earth (12:49). (2) The means to achieve this mission was his sacrificial death on the cross which he called a sort ot ‘baptism’ – of course, not by water but by blood (12:50). (3) The consequence of that fire would be a division within one’s own family (12:51-53).
If taken literally, Jesus’ statement in today’s gospel that he came to cast fire on the earth and cause division in families rather than peace and unity is shocking because it contradicts all that he stands for. The symbolism of fire has various meanings in the Bible, such as the presence and the glory of God. In the context of today’s gospel text, probably it signifies the purifying and destructive aspects of Christ’s gospel message. His message is meant to purify human mind from evil and burn or destroy all the evil that goes against God’s will and God’s way of thinking. Secondly, it also may symbolize Jesus’ burning zeal to see to the realization of his Big Dream or Great Project, that is, to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth. This desire was burning like a fire in him and he wished to enkindle the world with its glow (12:49). Finally, fire also signifies God’s judgement associated with the coming of the Messiah. Jesus’ saying about casting fire on the earth could also imply that with his coming, God’s Kingdom had come on earth. He called people to respond to this message which was also a message of salvation. Thus, basically he came to save people and not to judge or condemn them. But at the end of time, he would come to judge those who rejected his salvation.
The burning desire in Jesus to establish God’s Kingdom on earth motivated him to undergo a ‘baptism’ – literally, a plunge or immersion in water. But in this context Jesus must be referring to his immersion in blood, that is, his suffering and crucifixion in obedience to God’s will. In other words, he was willing to pay the price of his blood through his sacrificial death on the cross to accomplish his mission of saving humankind. This was his ‘baptism with fire’ about which John the Baptist predicted when he baptized Jesus in Jordan (Lk 3:16). It is clear, though Christ came as the Prince of Peace, this peace would be established by going through a painful ‘baptism,’ not of water but of blood. Jesus also spoke about the stress that he was under, until his baptism of blood was completed (12:49). Though this thought caused him great mental agony, still he longed to go through this painful path because it would lead to his resurrection and our salvation.
Jesus’ message did create in his time and continues to do so in our times a division even within the family (12:51-53). Though he is the greatest messenger of peace, he may become the source of division even within families – where the union based on blood-relationships and mutual bonds is so strong – if some in the family profess him ardently and uphold his values firmly, whereas the rest of the family members reject him and his values. His peace cannot be achieved by compromising with evil or evildoers. Evil forces normally do not submit to Jesus or get converted to his values quietly without posing a challenge to the good forces; hence some sort of unrest or conflict is sure to emerge even within family relations such as father-son, mother-daughter, mother-in-law-daughter-in-law, etc. In other words, a struggle can ensue within one’s own family leading to a division or breaking up of human relations as members decide either for or against Christ and his values. 
Jesus wanted his disciples to consider loyalty to him and to the cause of God’s Kingdom above all other loyalties or relationships, including family or kinship relationships. As the prophet Micah said long ago, Jesus also insisted, when the question of loyalty to his teachings came, one’s enemies could be members of one’s own household (Micah 7:6). He also spoke of a type of polarization that might take place among people of the same household because of him or his message of the Kingdom. It is not “one against one,” or “one against four,” but “two against three” and “three against two” (12:52). This expression seems to suggest that those who would come to faith in him would find a new bond to join together because of their common faith; and equally those who would reject him would also join together to oppose those who would accept him. Their common opposition to Christ would become the basis of their unity to oppose Christ.  
4.  Application to life 
Fire, baptism and division are the three main issues in today’s gospel. Jesus called his vision for a new society the Kingdom of God. He was fired with zeal, a burning desire or enthusiasm for the realization of that vision. He was burning with a passion of love for humans, especially for the poor and the sinners. The desire to save humankind was burning within him so strongly that he was longing to take baptism of blood (i.e. willing to undergo crucifixion). He longed to set the world on fire with love and destroy evil, hatred and lovelessness. Today’s gospel invites us to examine ourselves whether this fire has caught our hearts. Unfortunately we (his followers) tend to reduce religion to religiosity, that is, only pious practices, rituals, novenas and traditions, without showing public zeal, passion and commitment for his values. Jesus is still longing to see when his disciples will be fired with the same fire of love, and when the world will be set on fire by them. Once this passion for loving others as Jesus loved us is taken away, Christianity loses its sting and becomes merely sugar-coated piety and religiosity.
Today’s gospel message disturbs us if we live a life without a definite purpose influenced by Jesus’ vision. If we have a cause or dream to be realized like that of Jesus, we will do our best or go to any extent to realize it. We may have to undergo several ‘baptisms’ (that is, trials, suffering and sacrifices) to realize this dream. Once we have SOMETHING or SOMEONE to live for and die for, and are fired with enthusiasm for that cause, we can bear any hardship. A person without enthusiasm is without any vitality and merely exists instead of really living. According to Robin Sharma, such a person dies at twenty and is buried at eighty. He further says, “The saddest part of life lies not in the act of dying, but in failing to truly live while we are alive.” He further says: “We must live our life by choice rather than by chance. As Christians, we must choose to live with a passion for Christ and his cause. Otherwise where is that fire burning in us? We have to ask ourselves whether we use our dormant energies for service, reconciliation, seeking out the lost, showing mercy towards sinners, caring for the poor and the neglected, etc. The studies conducted by psychologists show that many of us keep most of our potentialities buried inside us and do not use them to the fullest extent. Sadly enough, this is true not only of lay people but also of priests and religious, because of sufficient number of loopholes in their diocesan and congregational structures and systems that make them less accountable. Only those who are determined to live their life with a difference against all institutional odds are able to swim against the general current and make an impact on others. This kind of impact naturally builds up God’s Kingdom and is a contribution to the fulfilment of Jesus’ dream.
In another sense, Jesus’ message is like a fire which can destroy evil (sin) by a change of heart, and can cause division between good and evil, godly and ungodly ways, truth and untruth, love and selfishness. Like Jesus, if we want to bring about reform, renewal and transformation in society, we have to condemn evil and unjust social structures. If we do so, we are sure to cause divisions and conflict. Some will support, some will oppose us. As described above, normally those who are opposed to Christ and his values will club together because of the common enemy they find in us. Thus, living a life of faith may disturb the status quo, vested interests and may go against the prevailing social current and customs or traditions. When we are confronted with values that conflict with the gospel, then all come to know who or what is our first choice from the sides we take. These sides are sharp: either for Christ and his gospel-values or against him and his values. There is nothing in between.
This conflict or disturbance takes place in several areas: first of all in our hearts, families, society and nation. In this struggle, we take sides. Since Jesus highlights the division within our own families in today’s gospel, let us take it first. Though strange, it is true: the Gospel of Christ can divide men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children. Even within the same family father takes the side of truth and the son takes the side  of untruth or vice versa; mother-in-law takes the side of good and daughter-in-law takes the side of evil or vice versa. Truth often causes division even within four walls of the family! For instance, take the case of a young girl who gets pregnant before marriage and wants to abort the foetus in her womb to save her honour in her society (as is the case in traditional societies in many parts of the world). But her mother wants to save the foetus because she believes that destroying a life in the womb is a grave sin.  Naturally this causes a rift or division between mother and daughter, and other members of the family also may take one of the sides. If the father supports his daughter and favours an abortion, and two more daughters support their mother, it will be exactly “two against three,” as Jesus said. In another case, if a father tells his son to attend church on Sundays but the son thinks that God is in his heart and not in the church alone, both father and son will be divided against each other. Today Jesus tells us that loyalty to him and his values or an ardent following of him must take precedence over loyalty even to family ties.
Even our service to the poor and the downtrodden may create a division in society. When our social services are not beneficial to the rich and the powerful but only empower the poor and the weaker sections of our society, the former may turn against us. We notice that within our families, neighbourhood and village communities also there are divisions between those who live by Christ’s values and those who do not; those who practice their faith fervently and those who do not. Though religious or consecrated life in the Church is a way of living the gospel in a radical manner, even among the religious, there can be conflicts among those who really live the gospel radically and those who would like to dilute their religious consecration by aping the secular values. It is natural that tensions and conflict can take place in such cases even within the family – all because of Christ!
The division mentioned by Jesus takes place not only in the line of blood-relationships, but also in the line of authority of parents over their children and mother-in-law over her daughter-in-law. Normally, Christians are supposed to obey all legitimate authority, especially of their parents. But, if parents/ religious superiors command anything that goes against the values of the gospel or moral principles, then allegiance to Christ should take a precedence over these authorities. Again this decision may lead to a division in the family or religious community. Actually speaking, in biblical sense, to give prominence to anybody or anything higher than God or above God is a form of idolatry.  In today’s gospel Jesus challenges us to examine who we love, and who we are loyal to above everything else – God, or our family and kinship relationships.  As disciples, Jesus invites us to give a higher loyalty to him than our own family or kith and kin. In the bargain, we may incur the wrath of our own family members. We should not knowingly offend our family members by our bad and unacceptable behaviour. If our family members are offended by the values of the gospel we want to practice, then we must be prepared to face opposition or hostility from those family members who do not care about those values.
5.  Response to God's Word
Are we fired with the same zeal and enthusiasm of Jesus for service and transformation of our society? What is our passion and commitment for eradication of social evils and transformation of human society? Are there sparks of Jesus’ passion for his vision and mission or His fire in our behaviour and actions? Are we ready and willing to face a division and conflict even within our families and friendship circles for upholding the gospel-values and moral principles such as respect for the sacredness of life, honesty in private and public life, upholding the integrity of God’s creation, or allow the fire of the Gospel to extinguish? Do we purposely try to extinguish this fire since it disturbs us so much? Does loyalty to family ties take precedence over loyalty to Christ in our behaviour?
6.  A Prayer
Jesus, you were fired with zeal and a burning desire for the realization of your vision of God’s Kingdom. You were longing to undergo a baptism of blood to realize it. May your love consume us and transform our lives that we may truly desire you and your gospel-values more than anything or anybody.  We are so sorry for allowing the fire for your love to extinguish in our behaviour and actions. We repent for the times we allowed loyalty to our family ties to take precedence over loyalty to you and your values. Fill us with the fire of your Spirit so that we may show the same zeal and enthusiasm for service and transformation of our society, and be willing to make sacrifices for your cause. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


         Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings: (1) Rev 11:19. 12:1-6.10 (2) 1 Cor 15:20-27 (3) Lk 1:39-56
                                15 August 2019            
[N.B.: Exceptionally, for our reflections today, we are including all the three readings.]
1.  Theme in brief
Fidelity to our vocation and victory over evil forces
2.  Focus Statement
Mary’s Assumption into heaven symbolizes our own hope of winning a final victory over the forces of evil and death by following her example of unshakable faith in God’s promises and total fidelity to our vocation.
3.  Explanation of the text
Today’s first reading speaks about the vision of John regarding a great portent or sign of the woman that appeared in heaven (Rev 12:1). This woman symbolizes the Church, who is the Mother of all the faithful. Her crying out in birth-pangs (Rev 12:2) refers to the pain of persecution and opposition which the Church has undergone from the beginning until now as she ‘gives birth’ to the child. The child is none other than Christ himself (Rev 12:4-5).
The red dragon that wants to devour the child as soon as it is born (Rev12:4) symbolizes the devil, and refers to all evil forces of the world that are opposed to the Messiah or his values. The seven heads, ten horns and a tail of the dragon, which can bang one-third stars to the ground (Rev 12:3-4), symbolize the tremendous capacity of evil forces to cause destruction and harm. The conflict between the woman and the red dragon symbolizes the conflict between the good values (of the Gospel preached by the Church) and evil forces opposed to these values.
In the second reading, Paul says that Christ has broken the bondage of death by his resurrection. He gives us the assurance that we who belong to Christ will also share his final victory over death. Death (in the spiritual sense) is the last enemy to be destroyed by him at his Final Coming (1 Cor 15:26).
According to today’s gospel, Elizabeth calls Mary “blessed” twice (1:42 and 45): first because of the fruit of her womb, or her bearing of the Divine Child in her womb, and secondly because of her faith in the fulfilment of God’s Word. Mary, in her Song of Praise (known as “Magnificat”), says that all generations will call her blessed because the Almighty has done great things for her (1) by lifting her up from her lowly state instead of lifting up the powerful ones (1:52); (2) by remembering his mercy that lasts from generation to generation (1:50, 54); and (3) by his fidelity (faithfulness) to fulfil the promises made to Abraham and his descendants (1:55). Further, as Luke mentions in another place, Mary is blessed because she is not only the Mother but also an ideal disciple of Christ. As an ideal disciple, she not only hears the Word of God but also keeps it, that is, obeys it in faith (11:28). All those who do so are also blessed like her.
4.  Application to life 
The figure of the woman who was crying in labour pain according to today’s first reading, originally referred to the early Church that was under persecution to give birth to Christ in the world. But later on in Catholic tradition this woman came to be identified with Mother Mary since she exemplifies all the characteristics of the Church so well. Therefore, the figure of the woman clothed with the sun primarily refers to the Church and is only secondarily applied to Mother Mary. From her beginnings till today, the Church, like the woman in today’s first reading, is in conflict with the “dragon” (forces opposed to Christ and his values). She undergoes persecution and opposition ‘giving birth’ to Christ or ‘giving birth’ to his values in the world.
Just like the nature of the pilgrim Church, Mary’s life was also a pilgrimage of faith. In her faith-journey, she had to constantly struggle with the ‘dragon’ (that is, evil forces operative in the world) to fulfil her vocation and mission on earth. Her faith was severely tested during this combat with the satanic forces symbolized by the red dragon. These are some of the evil or satanic forces Mary faced in her life-journey: (1) to conceive and bear a child as a virgin – one of the strictest taboos in Jewish society in those days; (2) an Emperor’s (Augustus’) order to go to one’s own town for census-registration during the last stage of her pregnancy; (3) the rejection by her own people at the time of her delivery in Bethlehem; (4) the flight into Egypt like a refugee to save her child from the killers sent by Herod; (5) loneliness after Joseph’s death and departure of her Son to do his Father’s work; (6) criticism and opposition to her son by the Jewish religious leaders; (5) and crucifixion of her innocent son like a criminal.
Though these ‘dragons’ tried their best to ‘devour’ her faith in God and win a victory over her, by remaining faithful to her original ‘yes’ (known as ‘fiat’) to him, Mary won a victory over them (Lk 1:38). Though she did not understand God’s ways fully and how his promises would be fulfilled, she believed and trusted that God’s Word would be fulfilled in ways known to him alone. Our faith and obedience are also severely tested like Mary’s, as explained above, when the happenings go quite contrary to our expectations and plans. Mary had already submitted herself to obey God’s Word as a servant (handmaid) would obey her Master (Lk 1:45). By submitting herself to his holy will, she allowed herself to be led by God who alone would guide her destiny. As a reward to her total fidelity, God did not allow her body to undergo decay at death. After the completion of her earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven, and was totally liberated from evil.
Today also, there are so many evil forces waiting for a chance to devour the good in us and destroy Christ’s values in the world. These forces have tremendous capacity to destroy good conduct, virtues and spiritual values in us, just like the capacity of the red dragon mentioned above. They always wait for a chance to force us to the abyss of darkness. Think of the evil influence of the mass media on us (especially on our children) that propagate sex, violence and crimes.
Taking a cue from Mary’s Magnificat, in which she announces the downfall of the proud and the powerful (Lk 1:51-52), we need to continue our fight against corruption, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation, consumerism, terrorism,  injustices, crimes against humanity, etc., even if it may displease the powerful, or sometimes our neighbours and friends. Sometimes we may have to suffer persecution and opposition like the birth-pangs of a mother for our testimony to Christ’s values (such as honesty and truth). Mary’s assumption has a strong message for us that in our struggle with the forces of evil, corruption, decay and death, we have to imitate her unshakable faith in the fulfilment of God’s Word and, like her, overcome these forces with the strength of faith.
For example, in some parts of the world when the missionaries work for social justice they are accused as communists, or when they create awareness among the poor and the downtrodden, belonging to other faiths, about their human rights and dignity, they are accused as proselytizers or anti-nationals. The ‘red dragon’ or evil forces continue to devour the values of Christ, such as justice, peace, fraternity, liberty and human dignity. Just as they caused ‘birth-pangs’ (persecutions) to the infant Church and in the faith-journey of Mother Mary, they continue to do the same to the Church and her children even today.
We know that many of Christ’s values directly contradict the normal way of thinking in the world. Let us take one example: For the world forgiveness of enemies is weakness and foolishness; if ever we forgive our offenders, it should be done with certain conditions.  But for Jesus forgiving an offender without any condition is a revolution of love. Mary too announces this revolution of love which contradicts the world’s ways: Normally the powerful sit on thrones, but she says that God lifts up the lowly to the thrones (Lk 1:52); normally the rich have their stomachs full, but she says God sends them away empty and fills the hungry with good things (Lk 1:53).
As Elizabeth calls Mary ‘blessed’ twice in today’s gospel, and as St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, like her we too are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing from the moment of our baptism (cf. Eph 1:3). As she bore Christ in her womb and gave birth to him, our baptismal vocation is also to become “Christ-bearers” and spiritually give ‘birth’ to Christ or to his values in the hearts of people around us. Today’s first reading begins with a vision in which John sees God's temple in heaven being opened and of the Ark of the Covenant seen within it (Rev 11:19). In Catholic tradition, Mary is called the Ark of the Covenant (cf. her Litany) because she bore Jesus within her, or she treasured God’s living Word within her, just as the Ark of the Covenant placed in a special tent during the desert-journey of Israelites symbolized for them God’s presence and faithfulness to his covenant. We too like Mary become the Ark of the Covenant when we become signs of Jesus’ presence in the world by loving and serving the needy not in theory but in practical ways as Jesus loved and served – by doing good to the needy, feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, and by serving the poor and the neglected. In today’s gospel, Mother Mary’s setting out and going “in haste” to serve Elizabeth (1:39-40) exemplifies her pro-active concern for the needy neighbour. This ‘haste’ indicates her eagerness and zeal to render service to her cousin in her difficulty without any request from her side – just because of her sensitivity to Elizabeth’s needs at that time. Today’s feast motivates us to imitate the model of charity given by Mary and, like her, remain faithful to our mission of joyful but sacrificial service.
Finally, today’s feast is a feast of hope for all of us. We too are destined to be where Mother Mary is. This feast fills us with hope in various ways: (1) that we too will ultimately triumph over or be totally liberated from sin and eternal death; (2) that we too will be raised body and soul like her in the final resurrection of the body; (3) that we too will get her reward of heavenly glory if we live a life of fidelity to our vocation and mission of giving Christ to the world. The resurrection of the body, by which our last enemy (that is, eternal death) will be destroyed, is assured to us at the Final Coming of Christ as mentioned in today’s second reading. This hope is the antidote to the feeling of despair and hopelessness that is spreading like a cancer in modern society. Today quite many people experience emptiness in spite of having plenty. Mary opens for us the door of hope and teaches us how to progress in its path: by trusting in God’s Word and the fulfilment of his promises; by allowing ourselves to be guided by his Word; and by doing his will even in times of trials and tribulations. We plead with Mary to pray for us that no worldly powers may rob us of our hope. May she lead us to Jesus who is our Hope.
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we respond to God’s Word with a deep faith in the fulfilment of God’s promises even against all odds, as Mary did? Do we try to find out God’s plans for us by reflecting on God’s Word and entrusting ourselves to God’s care for their fulfilment? Are we faithful like Mary to our life’s call and mission? Are we faithful like her to the mission of defeating evil with good and becoming bearers of Christ’s values in our world, in spite of opposition or intimidation? When we face so much evil around us, instead of giving up the fight, do we sometimes flee to ‘wilderness’ (Rev 12:6), i.e. take recourse to prayer and solitude to be spiritually nourished by God?
6.  A Prayer
Lord, today, our soul magnifies you and our spirit rejoices in you our Saviour, because you have looked with favour on the lowliness of Mary your Handmaid. You have really done wonderful things for her by calling her to give Jesus to the world. By submitting herself to your holy will, she allowed herself to be led by you. As a reward to her total fidelity, you assumed her with body and soul into the glory of heaven. In our struggle with the forces of evil, corruption, decay and death may we imitate her unshakable faith in the fulfilment of your Word and triumph over these with the strength of faith. May we cooperate with your grace like her, so that we too may share her reward of heavenly glory. Amen.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)


Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (C) [Lk 12:32-48]
11 August 2019
The Watchful, Faithful and Unfaithful Slaves
Readings: (1) Wis 18:6-9 (2) Heb 11:1-2.8-19
1.  Theme in brief
      Vigilance to meet the Lord and faithfulness to our duties
2.   Focus Statement
As disciples of Christ, we must live out our faith vibrantly by sharing our earthly wealth with the needy; by constant vigilance and alertness to meet our Master when he comes unexpectedly; and by remaining faithful to the duties and responsibilities entrusted by him.
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel text, we hear Jesus tenderly calling his disciples “little flock” and instilling in them the courage they require to overcome their fears (12:32). When he says these words, he has in mind the struggles or persecutions which his fragile “little flock” (that is, the early Christian community) would go through after his resurrection in a hostile world. Just as he had instructed them not to be over-anxious about their daily bread (12:22, 29), so also now he instructs them not to be over-anxious about inheritance of the Kingdom, because the Father has already decided to give it to them out of his pleasure (12:32).
Jesus urges his disciples to live out their faith vibrantly in three ways by: (1) sharing what they possess; (2) being constantly prepared to meet the Master when he returns at the end of time; and (3) remaining faithful to the duties entrusted tot them. Just as he had told them earlier, now he says that another way of becoming "rich toward God" (12:21) is to share their earthly wealth with the needy and fix their hearts on unfailing treasures in heaven ((12:33-34). The examples of almsgiving and selling of one’s possessions are given as examples of this attitude of sharing. This virtue is a wonderful antidote for greed for material possessions mentioned in last Sunday’s gospel. The earthly treasures are not lasting; hence the disciples’ heart should be more fixed on heavenly treasures, because where their treasure is, there their heart will be also (12:34).
Jesus instructs his disciples to be constantly ready and prepared to meet their Master when he “returns from the wedding banquet” (12:36). Returning is a clear reference to the ‘Parousia’ or the Final Coming of Christ in glory and wedding banquet seems to be a reference to his coming from his heavenly abode. Their preparedness involves alertness on their part to open the door for their Master whenever he knocks, even at an unexpected time such as midnight or dawn (12:36-38). It also involves being dressed for action at any time and keeping their lamps – that are well-maintained for any emergency – burning (12:35). Thus, Jesus mentions about the three characteristics of those who wait for their master to return from the wedding banquet (12:36): (1) a good preparation by staying dressed up for action; (2) a proper maintenance of their lamps that are kept lit; and (3) constant expectation to receive the master by opening the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks (12:35-36).
After giving the illustration of waiting servants, Jesus compares his Second Coming to the coming of a thief who suddenly breaks into the house at an unexpected hour without any knowledge of the owner. In the first example of the waiting servants, the coming of the Master is certain, but the exact time is not. In the second example of the thief, his coming itself is not certain – a reference to total unexpectedness of the Master’s coming (12:39). When the Master arrives unexpectedly like a thief, this unfaithful steward will have to pay heavily for his irresponsible behaviour (12:47). While the master-servant image is an encouragement to those who would wait, the owner-thief image is given as a warning to those who do not expectantly await the Lord’s return. In the former image, the Master (Jesus) comes with a reward of “blessedness” given to those whom the Master finds alert (12:37, 43).

Finally, by telling the parable of the faithful and unfaithful steward, Jesus illustrates the contrast between disciples who are faithful to the duties entrusted to them by their Master and those who are unfaithful. Their faithfulness to the stewardship entrusted to them proves their alertness or watchfulness. The faithful servant to whom the Master has entrusted with definite duties and put in charge of his slaves, is so prudent that the Master finds him doing his duties faithfully on his arrival (12:43). On the other hand the unfaithful manager is irresponsible towards his duties. Taking advantage of the long delay in the Master’s return, he indulges in beating other slaves mercilessly and behaves like the Rich Fool (12:19) mentioned in last Sunday’s gospel by living a dissipated life of eating, drinking and getting drunk (12:45). In this parable, the disciples are called the servants of the Master ready to do his will. Jesus concludes by saying that God demands a higher standard and greater responsibility from everyone who is granted special privileges like the apostles (12:48).
4.  Application to life 
If we put our heart and soul only in earthly treasures, there are hundreds of ways how they can perish and be lost for ever. Nowadays besides thieves and moths, there are fluctuations in stock market, fall in currency rates and interest rates, inflations, natural and man-made disasters. These things remind us how   corruptible our earthly possessions are. If we consider God and the poor and the needy as our treasures, then as Jesus says, our heart will follow them and their concerns. Otherwise it will be concerned about worshipping the three most common ‘idols’: "I,” “My” and “Mine”. Therefore, he advocates the habit of more sharing of whatever little things we have with the needy.
In our Christian life in general as well as in our particular state of life, we are entrusted with particular duties and responsibilities. Today’s gospel challenges us to examine whether we are faithful to these duties and carry them out in a responsible manner or not. We are stewards or managers of our Master’s goods. He has entrusted us his Kingdom and wants us to be responsible and faithful in spreading it. Today Jesus invites the believers in married state of life to be faithful to their matrimonial promises; students to their studies; employees to their duties; friends to the trust they pledged to their friends; children to their duty to love and respect their parents; leaders to the tasks and responsibilities entrusted to them either in the civil society or the Church; etc. Are we faithful to this commitment and cause?
What is faithfulness or fidelity?  In the Bible fidelity means holding fast to a person or a party to which one is bound. Faithfulness (fidelity) to God means making conscious choices for him and standing up for his cause, come what may. From the Bible, we come to know that God is always faithful to his promises. Jesus, our supreme model for faithfulness to God, was faithful to his Father’s will unto the last drop of his blood. He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work” (Jn 4:34). When he died on the cross he said that he accomplished (Jn 19:36) the mission entrusted to him by his Father faithfully to the point of laying down his life. Any deeper crisis either in marriage, priesthood or religious life is mainly a crisis of unfaithfulness to our promises/ commitment, or to our call and mission, which is ultimately unfaithfulness to God himself. Hence, fidelity in these states of life demands a conscious choice or decision to be made every day to forgive, heal, care, make adjustments and renounce our self-interests; thus holding fast to the cause for which God has called us. We are often tempted not to be faithful to this commitment and cause by succumbing to the forces of secularization and social pressure. We need to be constantly alert and vigilant by fortifying ourselves with the spiritual power that comes from prayer/ sacraments and the Word of God.
We are always inclined to make the two great mistakes which the unfaithful steward makes (12:45): (1) doing what he liked with his master’s gifts and possessions by behaving in an irresponsible manner; and (2) taking it easy thinking that the master is absent and there is plenty of time for his return. However, our God is a God of surprises and unexpectedness. He comes at an unexpected time and without prior warning like a thief to find us either faithfully doing our duties, or unfaithfully. He warns us about the tendency towards negligence and postponement of our duties, and behaving in an irresponsible manner. We need to be vigilant and prepared to meet the Lord when he comes unexpectedly by exhibiting greater responsibility. Readiness or preparedness to face any emergency or eventuality is gaining much more momentum today than olden days due to the possibilities of terrorist attacks, shocking accidents, sudden heart attacks, unprecedented natural calamities caused by environmental changes. Military personnel, commandos, firefighters, medical teams, bomb disposal squads, etc., are to be ever ready to get into action immediately. Any delay on their part may result in the loss of so many precious lives. But, do we feel the same type of urgency to prepare for Christ’s coming? Watchfulness means living in such a way that at any time we would be ready to give an account of our lives.
Jesus emphasizes very much the role of his disciples as servants of their Master who do his will and remain totally faithful to the duties or responsibilities entrusted to them by their Master. Our world today considers service, especially that which is lowly, as demeaning. Jesus speaks of service as a great privilege and honour. He himself came not to be served but to serve (Mk 10:45). He spoke of leadership as a noble service rendered to human society (Mk10:42-45). We, as disciples of Christ, cannot think of being faithful to him if we fail to serve the needy or the less fortunate. Readiness consists in remaining faithful in our Christian duties.
There is a further warning to those of us who are blessed with better talents, knowledge, opportunities and privileges. They have no excuse for not doing their best. The Lord expects from them more than others or better results. Those of us who have undergone higher education and longer years of spiritual formation or secular training, or have enjoyed plenty of opportunities, or are talented better than others are more accountable, says the Lord. Do we heed to this warning?
5.     Response to God's Word
Are there instances when we failed in marital/priestly/religious fidelity? Do we persevere in our good works and stick to our responsibilities even if we do not see any immediate result, and people do not cooperate with us, or do we easily give up? All of us are endowed with spiritual and temporal gifts. Do we use them responsibly according to God’s designs, or irresponsibly? In our roles as leaders, managers, employees, parents, teachers, students, priests, religious, etc., do we succumb to the temptation of easy-going mentality, lethargy, neglect of duties, postponement of tasks/decisions and sleeping over our responsibilities? Will we be called ‘blessed’ when the Master arrives (12:43)? In comparison with the blessings with which the Lord has blessed us and the gifts he has bestowed on us, do we try our level best to use them fully for the service of our family and community? Do we keep our energies and talents buried or underutilized?
6.  A Prayer
O God, you are always faithful to your promises. In our Christian life as well as in our particular state of life, you have entrusted us with particular duties and responsibilities. You want us to be faithful stewards of these duties and thus be responsible for spreading your Kingdom. We realize that there are moments when we are unfaithful to our vocation and mission and to the tasks and responsibilities entrusted to us. Thus we have betrayed the trust you have placed in us and have become obstacles for the spread of your Kingdom. We are sorry for our irresponsible behaviour, negligence and postponement of duties. Grant that we may remain vigilant and prepared to meet the Lord Jesus when he comes unexpectedly at the end of our life or at the end of time. Amen.